Belfast Telegraph

Estate agents’ joy over stamp duty reform

A little help for homebuyers but critics blast Chancellor

By Helen Carson

Northern Ireland estate agents have predicted that Alistair Darling’s axing of stamp duty of up to £250,000 for first-time buyers could kickstart the province’s stuttering property market.

The move, which came into effect at midnight last night, will save beleaguered first-time buyers thousands of pounds at a time when they have to stump up deposits of £20,000 plus to be in with a chance of a mortgage.

Despite plummeting house prices the home market for new buyers has had a rollercoaster ride in terms of its recovery. Estate agents have claimed the stamp duty moratorium will boost the housing market, although they pointed out few first-time buyers could afford to spend as much as £250,000 — it is usually around £150,000.

Mr Simon Brien, director at leading local estate agent BTWCairns, welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement on stamp duty. He said: “For a market in the early stages of recovery this will be a really strong boost for first-time buyers. It was particularly evident during last year’s stamp duty holiday with buyers rushing to complete sales before the December 31 deadline.”

Rory Allen, regional operations director for Reeds Rains branches in Northern Ireland, which rebranded from the Halifax in January, said: “Today’s announcement will give the housing market another shot in the arm, boosting transactional activity — and help to dampen the short-term effects of the looming General Election.”

Keith Mitchell of Templeton Robinson, which has five branches, said: “For some time we have been calling for some relaxation of the stamp duty levels because we have always believed that it would help to stimulate the market. It is a significant upfront cost for buyers.”

North Down estate agent John Minnis, with branches in Holywood and Donaghadee agreed: “This is the best thing that could have happened. This is such an important part of a buyer’s budget. It is very difficult for first time buyers to save up a deposit, to raise another £1,500 is a lot.”

But estate agent Desmond Turley of UPS, which has 12 branches, had mixed feelings: “Anything that helps the market is positive, but whether it will help the local market I don’t know. Our market has a long way to go,” he claimed. “We need more liquidity in our market and the banks and building societies need to respond.”

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